Holiday Affair (1949)
Synopsis: Connie Ennis (Janet Leigh) is a widower with a young son, Timmy, and a divorce lawyer boyfriend, Carl (Wendell Cory). She leads a quiet life until she meets Steve Mason (Robert Mitchum), a department store clerk that catches her at her game when she's comparison shopping for a rival store. When Steve doesn't report Connie, he gets fired and the two keep running ino each other in different circumstances. Connie finds herself in a love square. Committed to Carl, yearning for Steve yet still mourning her dead husband.
People often talk about the meaning of Christmas. And in my opinion, they always get it wrong. To me, Christmas is about change. It takes place around the time of the Winter Solstice when we leave behind Fall and head into the depths of Winter. When the days cease getting shorter and start getting longer. And for many religious folks, it's when a certain baby was born bringing hope and change into the world. Christmas is a time of introspection and reflection. New Year's follows shortly after and during Christmas we are already thinking of those changes we want to implement in the new year.
Connie Ennis doesn't want things to change. She wants everything to go back to how it use to be when her husband was still alive. She craves safety, security and consistency. Especially after the traumatic and life-changing experience of losing her husband during the war and having to face raising her son by herself. When a new person, Steve Mason, comes into her life that sense of consistency is threatened. Even though she could be happy with Steve, letting him in would take her out of her comfort zone, something she's not ready to do.
My favorite scene in this movie comes towards the end. Connie needs to return some money to Steve. Her son Timmy had exchanged the train Steve had given him for Christmas so that Steve could use the money for train fare. Connie is scared to confront Steve and her boyfriend Carl sees this. He realizes he'll never have her and they "divorce". Now free, Connie willingly goes up to Steve's apartment. And this is what he says to her on learning that she and Carl are no longer together:
I guess that's my cue to propose again. But I'm not going to... Carl isn't the real threat to me. Maybe I'm not to him. This isn't two fellas and a girl. It's two fells, a girl and her husband. I can't fight a shadow. I tried, the competition's too tough. You were even going to play it safe and settle for someone you didn't love so you wouldn't be unfaithful to your husband... All anyone wants you to do is live in the present and not be afraid of the future. And maybe it can happen again if you quit pretending something that's dead is still alive."
Steve Mason is one of my favorite all-time characters just because he's so wise. He realizes that even though Connie is free from Carl, she's not free from the ghost of her late husband. If Connie is going to be with Steve, she needs to accept change, embrace it even. She needs to move forward with her life, even if it means taking a risk.
We are headed for very uncertain times in 2009. Contemplating now those changes that are currently happening or those that lay ahead, we need to be willing to accept and adapt. We can't cling to the past. We need to be willing to move into the future and to take a risk, any risk, because that might mean a chance at happiness down the road. It's going to be a tough Christmas. But not one without hope.